WASHINGTON ― Republican senators on Sunday continued to distance themselves from alleged sexual predator Roy Moore, while President Donald Trump reiterated his implicit support of the Alabama GOP Senate candidate in a pair of tweets that morning.
“I want to be on the side of right when history writes this story,” Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said on ABC’s “This Week,” as he repeated his call for Moore to end his candidacy in the Dec. 12 special election.
The allegations that the 70-year-old Moore preyed upon teenage girls while in his 30s “are still very strong and credible, and the denial has been weak,” Scott said.
“It would be best if [Moore] stepped aside,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Scott and Portman are among many GOP lawmakers in Washington, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who have called on Moore to exit the race since the allegations against him first emerged earlier this month.
But Trump continues to stand by Moore and has not ruled out campaigning for him. He all but endorsed him last week, arguing that it would be better to have Moore in the Senate than “a liberal person,” referring to Moore’s Democratic opponent, Doug Jones.
On Sunday, the president again tweeted that “Liberal Jones would be BAD!” and called him a Democratic “puppet who is WEAK on Crime.”
Jones is a longtime prosecutor who in 2002 prosecuted two of the KKK members responsible for the 1963 bombing of a black church in Birmingham, Alabama, that killed four girls.
Moore has denied the sexual misconduct allegations — now from nearly 10 women. Known nationally for his strident opposition to gay marriage, he has said he the accusation stems from a conspiracy to keep him out of the Senate.
Despite their condemnation of Moore, Republican lawmakers on Sunday were reluctant to denounce Trump’s efforts to rally support for Moore.
“The president will have to make his own decisions on where he thinks he is and why he’s there,” Scott said, when asked if Trump is “on the side of wrong.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called Trump’s implicit support an attempt “to throw a lifeline to Roy Moore,” but said the decision was “up to the president.”
However, he warned that a Moore victory could have long term negative consequences for Republicans.
“If you think winning with Roy Moore is going to be easy for the Republican Party, you’re mistaken,” Graham said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“The president obviously can speak for himself, and I think he sees the specter of a Democrat holding that seat and what that might mean for his agenda,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) told Fox News’ Chris Wallace.
Thune advised Trump to “help everybody out by doing what he can to try and get Roy Moore to step aside,” but acknowledged that Alabama voters “don’t care a lot what Washington, D.C., thinks.”